Pai Skincare founder Sarah Brown on rebranding during the pandemic

By Becky Bargh 23-Sep-2020

After founding Pai 13 years ago, Sarah Brown has finally turned her brainchild into the brand she always wanted it to be. Here, she tells Cosmetics Business about Pai’s new focus and how she negotiated its way through the pandemic

Sarah Brown founded Pai 13 years ago

Sarah Brown founded Pai 13 years ago

Sarah Brown describes the revamp of her beauty brand Pai as a “labour of love”.

After four years in the making and a global pandemic to contend with, her 2020 rebrand has been no mean feat, but rather an “intense time” that she has had to negotiate with agility and caution.

Since Pai’s conception 13 years ago, the brand’s focus was solely aimed at consumers with sensitive and problematic skin.

While this was Brown’s initial intention when she set out to create her brand, Pai has become a popular choice among consumers that do not suffer with such issues.

“There were lots of elements why we felt like we needed to go ahead with the rebrand,” Brown told Cosmetics Business.

Pai Skincare founder Sarah Brown on rebranding during the pandemic

“We built 13 years of experience and credibility for people who had skin that was in challenge, but there were people sitting out of the sensitive skin box that we could help.

“Do you class breakouts and menopause or hormonal skin as sensitive? Probably not by definition, but we wanted to speak to anyone that needs help or support with their skin.

“We weren’t talking to our wider audience at all, and we could see this surge in ‘clean’ new brands piling and we were just sitting on the perimeter watching, but we weren’t entering the fray.”

Pai’s cartons are laminate-free and, according to Brown, have been for several years, while its packaging uses biodegradable tamper seals.

Meanwhile, the brand’s production facility houses Pai’s research and development, production and distribution, and marketing teams.

All of the products are made on site and Brown’s desk is just a floor above the facility, meaning the brand is able to validate everything that goes into its products.

“A really key point for us is that we are passionate manufacturers, we love the process, we think it’s really important, we think it delivers a higher quality product that’s crucially a much more unique product.”

Telling the Pai story

But there’s more to the revamp than the brand’s messaging and market positioning.

“This is a rebrand that is about storytelling and we wanted to tell a story at every touchpoint,” Brown added.

“When you open the pack, there’s a unique interruption on every bottle and every box, which had to tell the story of the name and the product.

“Every product has to either showcase the hero ingredient, its reason for being, why the product came about, what the benefit is that it is delivering. It’s about telling the product story.”

Pai Skincare founder Sarah Brown on rebranding during the pandemic

As part of the rebrand, Pai’s product names have been reworked to tell a story.

For example, Brown’s first-ever creation, the Geranium & Thistle Moisturiser, has been renamed as The Pioneer and conveys the story of being the brand’s debut product.

“We had a lot of fun doing it,” Brown adds. “We agonised over it, but I think that you have to; to be happy at the end you have to have sweated the detail.

“The box is probably one of my favourite bits, it’s totally unique. It was a beast to make but it has this notion of no adhesives, which means you can take it apart, and then this idea of discovery.”

Pai has also welcomed a new product to its portfolio in the form of a serum.

The new Instant Kalmer (£49) is enriched with sea aster to calm aggravated skin and cool, while reducing redness.

The product’s trio of ceramide molecules is combined with a sugar molecule to improve skin penetration and build-up long-term resilience.

Doing Pai justice

Despite having to contend with a global pandemic and a “mere brand relaunch”, as Brown described it, she said the brand’s new trajectory is everything she wanted it to be.

“It’s done Pai justice, it’s the brand I wanted us to be for a long time,” she said.

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“It’s not perfect but it’s not perfect because it couldn’t be. With the functionality we needed, I think we got as far as we could get it.”